Jarhead: A Marine's Chronicle of the Gulf War and Other Battles

by Anthony Swofford

I don't generally read military memoirs. I picked this one up because it was an also-ran at bookgroup and one that Stepan read and seemed to enjoy.

This book is Anthony Swofford's recollections of his experiences as a marine in the first Gulf War. It includes vignettes from his childhood as an army brat, boot camp, and transitioning into an elite sniper unit within the Marines.

He writes about the politics of war - politics within the military and brief glimpses of Washington politics, which was vaguely fascinating. For example, I had no idea Dick Chaney was so involved in the first conflict (yes, I did have my head in the sand...I was a freshman at college!). Also, within the military, you have to be careful whom you piss off or you just might find yourself stuck with the duty of burning the contents of the cans that collect the wastes from the latrines. There is also a "no salute" rule within combat zones to prevent the enemy from being able to easily identify those in command (who knew the military could be so practical?).

I think parts of the book were meant to be shocking, but weren't anything I wouldn't expect from a group of aggressive men, living in a military encampment, who have to maintain the mythos of machismo in order to face the jobs they may be called upon to do. Not to say the book wasn't without it's frank admissions of terror when the company uncounted the few combat situations that were detailed here.

Bottom line: I don't think I would recommend this book to anybody, but I'm glad I read it.

Posted by jfer at February 15, 2004 8:53 PM | TrackBack

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